Sheffield gets £250,000 in dementia research funding

21 September 2018

Scientists at the University of Sheffield have received a £250,000 funding boost from Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity. The announcement comes on World Alzheimer’s Day, and as Alzheimer’s Research UK has pledged to commit a further £250 million to dementia research by 2025.

Dementia affects 850,000 people in the UK alone, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common cause. Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a relatively rare form of dementia, however just like in Alzheimer’s disease, no cure currently exists and there are no drugs that can slow down or stop the disease in a person’s brain.

The new funding allows Prof Mimoun Azzouz at the University of Sheffield to lead a major project delving further into the causes of FTD, to take us towards better treatments for the disease. The disease, which primarily affects the frontal lobes of the brain, can cause major changes to someone’s personality, behaviour, and ability to communicate.

A defect in a gene called C9orf72 is thought to be responsible for around 8% of all FTD cases and as such it is a key target for potential new treatments. With this new funding, Prof Azzouz and his team will use state-of-the-art cell model systems to study cells donated by people with FTD caused by a faulty C9orf72 gene in detail in the lab.

The team will then use powerful research techniques including viral carriers to shed further light into the role this C9orf72 expansion has on the loss of brain nerve cells during FTD.

Prof Azzouz who is leading the study at the University of Sheffield said:

“FTD is a devastating condition that can rob people of their ability to communicate effectively with others or radically transform a person’s personality and behaviour. By using cell models derived from people with a genetic cause of FTD, we will be able to take a closer look at the processes which lead to nerve cell loss in the disease

“Our proposed techniques are revolutionising our ability to study nerve cells in detail in the laboratory and have provided us with new avenues for research that would not have been possible just a few years ago. We’re very grateful to Alzheimer’s Research UK for their support.”

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK said:

“Alzheimer’s Research UK receives no government funding for our research, and it is only thanks to the generosity of our supporters that we are able to fund groundbreaking projects like this. Without new breakthroughs one in three people born this year will develop dementia at some point in their lives, and projects like this are laying the ground work for ways to reduce those odds.”